Ian Wallace

Room in Portbou, photographic series, 1996. Exhibited at the Galeria dels Àngels in Barcelona in 1996.

‘It was August 1996. After a sad farewell to a dear friend in Toulouse I stopped for the night in Portbou on my way to Barcelona. I took the last available room in the first guest house I came to. I stopped in Portbou, looking for the site of the Walter Benjamin’s suicide on September 26, 1940. When I opened the window of my tiny room, expecting to find an unobstructed view of the Mediterranean, I found myself facing the perverse spectacle of a stone wall, only forty centimetres in front of me. It was like a kind of sealed tomb, which corresponded to my feelings at that moment, and to the fate of Walter Benjamin. When I heard the train whistle I realized that on the other side of the wall was the railway.’ The work Room in Portbou incorporates Walter Benjamin’s death certificate and another photograph of the main boulevard of Portbou in 1940, with a pile of rubble in the street in the foreground, the result of the impact of the Civil War on certain buildings.

Ian Wallace had previously addressed the theme of debris in other photographic series made in Vancouver, and especially in Construction Site, a series inspired by the earth movements in Olympic Barcelona. 

Ian Wallace (born in Shoreham, England, in 1943 and based in Vancouver, Canada) is a member of the group of Vancouver artists working with the rhetorical possibilities of photography. In fact, he is considered to be the founder of the Vancouver School, which explores the conceptual possibilities of photography.


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